As I wait again in the family waiting area for a NICU surgery to wrap up, I’m reminded of the difficult lessons I’m learning. The first is patience. I’m learning that God has a timeline and I’m better off letting go of mine and embracing His. I have a matryoshka doll of “waits” bobbling in my mind. I have the big waits of wondering when my baby will be healed and when he will be home. I have littler waits nested within of when will the chest tube come out? and when will the doctors trust our breastfeeding to grow his body? There are surrounding waits of when will the NICU let us back in so I can see my baby? and when will the doctor tell me about the last scan?
My whole day is a succession of waits, big and small. I’m not good at waiting, at least not through all these unknowns. If God could just send me a messenger to say, “Elijah will be fine and you will be home together soon,” I could wait in peace; If I knew it would all work out, I could endure almost anything in the meanwhile. Over the last 8 weeks, I think I’ve been decompressing a bit. My 6-week hopeful mental deadline came and went with no homecoming. I’ve let go of trying to guess when we’ll have him back and have relaxed into knowing he is where he should be. He’ll leave when the time is right. I’m trying to lift my waits to God and believe that the “whens” don’t matter next to God’s will
. Our world is in His hands.
As I sit here moping, I tear up a bit when I see a father across the room hang up his cell phone and burst into a relieved cry, “She’s okay!” The family circles up for hugs and a prayer of thanksgiving. It was his daughter’s surgery I was waiting on to get back to see my son. He was waiting for her life. As my waits are put in perspective, I want to jump up and join the group hug to celebrate with them.
My second, and equally-challenging lesson is relinquishing my self-reliance. Floods of offers for help have come in from friends, family and acquaintances. For the first weeks, I couldn’t think of what I needed, aside from stability for our boys, which family was providing. I wasn’t sure there was anything to need. I felt bad because I could tell people genuinely want to help, but I’ve been so autonomous I couldn’t come up with anything. Finally, someone, not knowing the wisdom of her actions, practically forced help upon us. We, very uncomfortably, accepted lunch for a week from near-strangers.
I felt very humbled, if not a little uneasy, to have meals delivered to the hospital each day by people who spent the time, effort and money to cook or order them. Quickly, though, the blessing manifested itself. The warmth of a tasty meal, delivered in love, nourished our hearts and bellies. We had something wonderful and reliable to look forward to each day. That gave me the courage and humility to ask our devoted church members for a few meals we could keep in our deep freezer for those evenings when we don’t have enough juice left to cook. Someone passed out 42 casserole pans in church and from that day we have not had to cook a single dinner! What a blessing and a relief!
I don’t know why I developed my independent nature. It’s been too important to me to solve my own problems and meet my own needs. It doesn’t make much sense to me, because in the other direction, I’ll do just about anything for just about anybody for the sheer joy of helping someone. I like to be a contributor. So, why is it so hard to be a recipient? Why is it so uncomfortable for me to feel so indebted to so many people and to know I could probably never repay each person, and *gulp* could probably not even list each person that has helped us. Why do I feel the need to repay deeds that were done without expectation, and perhaps even causing offense if I tried? If I were to think as a giver, I would want my recipient to feel at peace with my gift – to feel relief from the burden that has been lifted by my gift – and to go about her day, free to focus on what matters.
As I write these words, I’m seeing a big blinking arrow pointing to some important truths. People need people. We weren’t meant to handle everything on our own. Sometimes a harder lesson than learning to give is learning to receive – to accept what we need from those who freely give. Most importantly, I’m reminded to daily accept the gift of life that God had freely given. We each need to accept it with gratitude and peace, understanding that we will never deserve it, earn it, or be able to repay it. We owe no debts; we’ve been freed to focus on loving Him and each other. What a blessing and a relief!